Which Novel Should You Read First? Take the Quiz

The infographic craze is, well, crazy. I think it’s safe to say that I’m about as tired of infographics as I am the #IceBucketChallenge.

And yet …

Let me know your result of this quiz, would ya? I’ll psychologically analyze you later.

infographic

The Best Margarita Recipe, Taste-Tested and Texan-Approved

tequila Margarita on the rocksWhen you’re from Texas, three of the four main food groups are lime, tequila, and salt. (The fourth is straight-up enchiladas.) Suffice it to say that I’m no stranger to the sweet-tart heaven of a margarita done right. (The main character in my novel Blue Straggler isn’t, either.)

I’ve had margaritas made with sweet-and-sour mixes. I’ve had margaritas made with Lone Star beer. I’ve had blue margaritas and strawberry margaritas and cucumber margaritas and prickly pear margaritas. I’ve enjoyed frozen margaritas, swirled-with-sangria margaritas and on-the-rocks margaritas.

And they are not all, as they say, created equal.

In honor of the two-year anniversary of the publication of Blue Straggler by 30 Day Books, I’m sharing what I consider to be the best, simple margarita recipe on the planet.

Let me know if you agree!

The Blue Straggler Margarita

Run a juicy lime wedge over the rim of a cocktail glass and dip the rim of the glass in coarse sea salt.

In a bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon light agave nectar with 1 tablespoon filtered water and 1½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice.

Pour the nectar mixture, along with 1/3 cup 100-percent blue agave tequila, into a shaker. (Do not settle for cheap college-days tequila. You’re a grown up!)

Add ice and shake.

Pour liquid only over fresh ice in your salt-rimmed glass. Add a final squirt of lime on top and drop the wedge into the drink.

Sip while listening to the Marty Robbins’ song, El Paso, or Down on the Rio Grande by Johnny Rodriguez.

My Favorite Reads of 2013

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Before pneumonia took me down in December, I would consider 2013 a banner reading year for me. Mostly because, perhaps unfortunately, I wasn’t writing much fiction myself. Which is just fine. Because sometimes writers need to spend a long time soaking up the words others have written to get back to the reason we write in the first place.

I didn’t keep track, but I’m sure I read at least 100 books — some fiction, some nonfiction. And here are five of my favorites.

1. Tenth of December by George Saunders. This collection of short stories is literary perfection. Every word, every phrase, every sentence, every character, and every story seems to have meaning far beyond the first that comes to mind. It’s definitely a thinker’s story collection and not for anyone who wants a light, airy read. It’s honest and brutal and moving, and it’s one of those books that stays with you long after you’ve read it. It’s oh so good. It’s one I will buy in hardcover after having read it twice on my Kindle. This should be required reading for all writers of fiction. Maybe all writers in general. Maybe all readers.

2. Great Colorado Bear Stories by Laura Pritchett. I’ve been a fan of Laura’s since her first collection of short stories, Hell’s Bottom, Colorado. And I’m also very interested in bears, since I have lived among them in the Colorado mountains for 12 years now. But I think anyone who is curious about wildlife, and the interaction between humans and wildlife, will enjoy it. The book is full of nonfiction research and first-hand accounts of bear encounters. It’s written in a way that engages and makes what could be a dry topic instead a book I couldn’t put down. If you like Craig Childs’ work, you’ll enjoy this book.

3. Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III. Another fiction collection, this one touted as “four not-quite-novella-length stories.” I absolutely loved these stories, all of them about relationships and people who are on the cusp of something. The stories hurl you into the characters’ minds so completely that you truly care about them, even with all their flaws, and, in comparison to Saunders’ work, you don’t even think about the words or language used. You just HAVE to know what happens to these people. (However, the writing is near brilliant, too.) I’d love to see any of these stories made into a full novel. If you liked House of Sand and Fog by Dubus, you’ll enjoy this collection.

4. Judging a Book by Its Lover: A Field Guide to the Hearts and Minds of Readers Everywhere by Lauren Leto. This was a fun, nonfiction keeper. It’s from the woman who cofounded the humor blog, Texts From Last Night, while she was in law school. But the book grew out of her other blog (no longer up, I don’t think) called Book Porn. This book is hilarious, particularly for college English majors and all-around book nerds like me. Here’s how the publisher described it, and I agree: “… [It’s] like a literary Sh*t My Dad Says—an unrelentingly witty and delightfully irreverent guide to the intricate world of passionate literary debate, at once skewering and celebrating great writers, from Dostoevsky to Ayn Rand to Jonathan Franzen, and all the people who read them.”

5. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh. Another blogger turned book-writer, Brosh got her book deal based on her blog, Hyperbole and a Half. So be sure to check out the blog to see if you can handle her type of writing, which is a hybrid form of words and illustrations and more words. But mostly, it’s hilarious. And insightful. And true. Not just to her life, but probably to your own. My favorite chapters were the ones where she delves into the minds of her dogs (so funny!) and the ones where she describes depression for those who have never experienced it (spot on.)

What was your favorite read of 2013?

Don’t Stop for Cigarettes: Or What Blue Straggler Was Almost Titled

BlueStragglerCover_b06.4 front only W555H850A lot of readers ask me how I came up with the title for my debut novel, Blue Straggler. So here’s a little story for you, including a list of what might’ve been the title of my first Amazon bestseller!

The short story that birthed the idea for Blue Straggler was actually titled Boondocks. The title hit on the main character’s feeling of isolation, along with a hint at the crazy family out in the sticks. But as the story grew into a novel, the title didn’t feel right anymore.

Then, I was in the middle of writing Blue Straggler my first year in Colorado and I was reading an astronomy book. Moving up here had made me want to learn more about these stars I felt like I could touch from the top of a mountain. I came across the term, blue straggler, and its definition:

There are stars in our galaxy that belong to a globular cluster but have an anomalous blue color and high luminosity in comparison with other cluster members. When the globular cluster is plotted, there is a distinct turn-off point on the main sequence. The stars that appear to be disconnected from the cluster’s main sequence are called Blue Stragglers.

I knew right away that was the title I was looking for. The term and its image fit the main character, Bailey, so well. She’s down on her luck. She’s a kind of straggler in life. She’s disconnected from her family. She’s at a distinct turn-off point.

My agent, who signed me based on this novel, suggested I change the title. She said it sounded too sci-fi and wouldn’t resonate with the target audience in women’s fiction.

We brainstormed other ideas, even though I felt strongly that the title shouldn’t be changed. Here are some of the top ones we considered:

  • Don’t Stop for Cigarettes
  • The Draw of a Good Enchilada Is a Powerful Thing
  • It’s Hard to Escape with Texas Plates
  • Nowhere I Want to Be
  • Therapy Is Working Wonders

Luckily, my agent eventually let this be my decision, and I stuck with Blue Straggler. So did my publisher.

What do you think?

Free Weekend Promotion! Children’s Picture Book for Kindle Fire

Higgenbloom and the Dancing GrandmasHi all! Now through Monday, my children’s picture ebook (for kids age 3 to 6 and all adults!) is FREE on Amazon – available for download to your Kindle Fire or to your iPad with the Kindle reading app.

Download the free Kindle book right now.

This is likely the only free promotion that’ll happen this year, so take advantage, and help spread the word about the book! (Reviews are always appreciated, too.)

I really hope you enjoy Higgenbloom and the Dancing Grandmas.

Here’s the book description:

Higgenbloom the Honey Bee didn’t fit in with the other bees who lived on Grandma Rosemary’s farm. Instead of working from sunup to sundown like the others, Higgenbloom was known for doing silly somersaults, breaking out in little bee boogies, and pretending he was a jet pilot, zooming from flower to flower and making himself quite dizzy. But sadly, Higgenbloom always played alone. One morning, Higgenbloom wanders off on his own (again), only to find himself in a heap of trouble — trapped inside a moving car and traveling away from the farm and everything he knows! Find out what happens when Higgenbloom goes on an adventure … and encounters some very cool Dancing Grandmas along the way. Packed with abundant silliness, interactive questions for children, and beautiful illustrations, Higgenbloom and the Dancing Grandmas is the perfect book for fun grandmothers who know how to “rock and roll,” grandchildren who love being silly, or anyone who has ever wanted to boogie down — no matter what others might think.
Thanks for reading!


 

My Novel Wins [Gulp] a National Award

cover A Good kind of knowingCan I get a woohoo? How about a yeehaw? My latest novel, A Good Kind of Knowing, has won top honors from the National Federation of Press Women in its 2013 national writing competition. The book won first place in the Novel – Adult Readers category. The awards ceremony will take place this August in Salt Lake City. Earlier this year, the novel won the state competition, and that news was exciting enough. But national? Wow. I’m stunned!

To celebrate, the novel will be only 99 cents as an ebook on Amazon for a few days, so tell your friends, family, enemies, dogs, llamas, etc. Here’s the link.

Thank you so much for believing in my work. A national award is groovy, but whether you are a new reader or an “old” reader, your support is what matters most to me.

New Book Trailer for Children’s Picture Ebook

I’m pleased to post the new book trailer/slideshow for my children’s picture ebook, Higgenbloom and the Dancing Grandmas! I hope it makes you smile (and maybe want to buy the book for your kiddos!)

 

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

A Honey Bee (and A Few Rockin’ Grandmas) Are Born

Higgenbloom and the Dancing GrandmasExciting news this week! The children’s picture book I’ve been mentioning for a few months now, Higgenbloom and the Dancing Grandmas, is officially out in the world.

My friend Katie MacGillivary did the amazing illustrations, and I am so proud of this project.  I hope everyone enjoys it as much as we enjoyed bringing Higgenbloom and his friends to life.

The book is suitable for everyone but was written with children ages 3 to 6 in mind.

The book is available as an ebook on Amazon right now. Other distribution channels will be online soon. And if it sells well as an ebook, a hardcover will be printed in 2014. You can purchase the ebook here for your Kindle, iPad, desktop, or other type of tablet. You can even read it on your iPhone. All you have to do is download the free Kindle app for your device.

The book is about a cute little honey bee who likes to be silly. A lot. One morning, Higgenbloom wanders off and finds himself in a heap of trouble — trapped inside a moving car and traveling away from the farm and everything he knows! The day becomes quite an adventure when Higgenbloom encounters some very cool Dancing Grandmas along the way.

Packed with abundant silliness and interactive questions for children, Higgenbloom and the Dancing Grandmas celebrates grandmothers who like to “rock and roll,” grandchildren who love being silly, or anyone who has ever wanted to boogie down — no matter what others might think.

Higgenbloom is on Facebook, of course. Isn’t everybody? Please “like” the book here to help spread the word and stay on top of news and upcoming contests! He also has his own website, too, at higgenbloomthehoneybee.com.

Thanks, y’all, for supporting this latest work. It’s my third children’s book, but my first one that’s released for the general public and available as an ebook. Please let me know how you like it!

PS: I love telling the world that the old stereotype found so often in children’s literature of a grandmother wasting away life in a rocking chair isn’t quite reality for most of the grandmas I know. Grandmas rock!

Free Kindle Promotion for A Good Kind of Knowing

cover A Good kind of knowingMy latest novel, A Good Kind of Knowing, has been out now since October (in ebook, since December in paperback), and this is the first time it’s been offered free as an ebook via Amazon. It’s a free promotion in advance of my blog tour, which begins next week.

If you’d like to try the novel, risk-free, this is when to download! The promotion goes from April 4 through April 7.

 

 

Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009V3G93O

The book currently has 35 reader reviews on Amazon and a 4.5-star average rating. (Thank you, readers, who have offered your heartfelt reviews!) A friend recently told me that it was the most moving book she’s read in a long time. Wow. Just. Wow. So pleased with that kind of response to my work.

Feel free to share this information with friends. For every download, I hope that person enjoys the story enough to tell a friend.

Oh, and you don’t have to have a Kindle to get the free download. You just need to add the Kindle app to your iPad, android tablet, iPhone, desktop computer, whatever. You can get the free app here.

Thanks, always, for the support!

 

 

 

First Look at the Dancing Grandmas

So far, I’ve given you several peeks at the awfully cute Higgenbloom the Honey Bee from my forthcoming children’s book, Higgenbloom and the Dancing Grandmas. (Spring 2013 release date)

Now, here’s your first look at the Dancing Grandmas! (See below.) I personally think they ROCK, thanks to illustrator Kate MacGillivary.

And here’s the book’s official description: (recommended for children ages 3 to 6)

Higgenbloom the Honey Bee didn’t fit in with the other bees who lived on Grandma Rosemary’s farm. Instead of working from sunup to sundown like the others, Higgenbloom was known for doing silly somersaults, breaking out in little bee boogies, and pretending he was a jet pilot, zooming from flower to flower and making himself quite dizzy. But sadly, Higgenbloom always played alone. One morning, Higgenbloom wanders off on his own (again), only to find himself in a heap of trouble — trapped inside a moving car and traveling away from the farm and everything he knows!

Find out what happens when Higgenbloom goes on an adventure … and encounters some very cool Dancing Grandmas along the way. Packed with abundant silliness, interactive questions for children, and beautiful illustrations, Higgenbloom and the Dancing Grandmas is the perfect book for fun grandmothers who know how to “rock and roll,” grandchildren who love being silly, or anyone who has ever wanted to boogie down — no matter what others might think.

Dancing Grandmas

What do y’all think? Thanks for your support, always.